Robert McLean (1974) lives in Featherston, New Zealand. His poetry has appeared in four limited editions: For the Coalition Dead (Kilmog Press, 2009), For Renato Curcio (Gumtree Press, 2010), Goat Songs (Kilmog Press, 2011) and Graveyard by the Sea (Cold Hub Press, 2012). He is currently working on a prospective selection of Dan Davin’s poetry.
The Emperor rolls a grape
between forefinger and thumb,
the world in equipoise –
a brief moment of respite
from battery and rape
that fill each day and night,
but which he no longer enjoys –
licence has left him numb.
With legions at his back
and fear governing his house,
he could do anything –
but what’s left for him to do?
The grape gets squashed – the fact
is he must find some new
distinguished vice to bring
him pleasure. Something marvellous.
He quits his sister’s bed,
walks down the corridor
towards the balcony –
his predecessors shine
among the stars, the dead
apotheosised. It’s a sign
– made unequivocally –;
like them, he’ll wage a war.
The world spreads out before him –
his council never fibs
and augury reveals
to him he is a God.
At breakfast, friends ignore him,
which seems to him quite odd.
And suddenly he feels
the knife slide through his ribs.
The Discovery Of Pluto
i.m. Geoffrey Hill
A little girl named it. But first
it had to be discovered.
Attending to the unknown, the thirst
for knowing piqued by its absence,
on where nothing can be seen;
this seeking out, some of us love it
more than others, and have since
before forgetting – our hopes
of going where no one else has been.
Yet no one was looking for it;
a perturbation – a kink –
in Neptune’s serene orbit
hinted at something – the solar
system’s darker reaches,
if thus disturbed, might host
a planet spinning on the brink
of nothingness: a colder
satellite, an orbital Ghost
of knowledge with much to teach us.
Soon enough, evidence backed
up their case –the distant snarl
in space had mass, plying a track
around our underwriting star.
Until then sight-unseen,
the object graced the lenses
presupposing it. And yet, so far, all
they knew was only known so far –
knowledge, in a certain sense, is
always partial, always far from keen.
Some say name precedes identity;
and that identity in turn
dictates the substance of things. If we
can bring ourselves to believe as much,
perhaps those astronomers
who didn’t shy from their unknowing
somehow made the stars burn
brighter. They couldn’t touch
and weigh what they’d seen, but by showing
it was there, we realise what is.
It was a planet. Now it’s not. In
our strictly unblinking cosmos,
thick with dark matter, to be forgotten
is never to have been. For man-
kind, everything’s what we insist it is
for opposable-thumbed self-styled
gods, no matter what it costs us
in the end, our ends no more than
those of some forever curious child,
forever charting further distances.
Writing A Poem
At People’s Coffee on Constable Street
in Newtown, as other people drink and eat,
a young woman, about my daughter’s age,
shuttles from page, to touch-screen, back to page
again, writing in un-metred quatrains
verses about god-only-knows what pains
and pleasures, trawling the online thesaurus
for le mot juste, as if she were a tourist
in some foreign country where synonyms
can be exchanged at a good rate, her trim-
milk latte bowl and half-smoked cigarettes
fuel to publish her desires and regrets,
penned plaints to ennui, social status, and love,
which I suppose myself to be above
(not love, of course, which moves me most, but how
its bought and sold: that’s what I disavow),
this girl who wants – I guess – to grace a page
of whatever kind’s demanded by the age,
damning what piques this critic’s avarice
by making a poem, the work that gathers us
together in this hodgepodge ebb-and-flow,
my partial blessing won – for all I know
(I’m cribbing Wordsworth) whether it ignores or
lauds her works, the world is all before her.